Police detain 8 lawyers protesting arrest of Cumhuriyet attorneys

Turkish riot police used force to disperse a group of lawyers who held a sit-in protest at the İstanbul Courthouse on Thursday in protest of the arrest of three lawyers who were jailed as part of an investigation into the Cumhuriyet daily.

The lawyers were demanding the release of Cumhuriyet daily’s chief executive officer, Akın Atalay, and the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s executive board members Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, all of whom are attorneys.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Celal Doğan, Filiz Kerestecioğlu and Garo Paylan, who are also lawyers, were also at the İstanbul Courthouse to join the protest.

The lawyers held banners in silence that read “Freedom to defense.” When the lawyers refused to end their protest, riot police intervened with shields and detained eight of them.

Some lawyers were injured in the fray.

Ten journalists and executives from the Cumhuriyet daily, including its Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace in November.

They face allegations of aiding the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and “FETÖ”.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” coined by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Gülen movement has been inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Gülen who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution. The movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.

Gülen has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government as well as Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdoğan launched an unprecedented persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.

The ruling AKP’s Islamist leaders labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (SCF with turkishminute.com) April 6, 2017

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